he Pennsylvania state Supreme Court late on Monday suspended one of its own, Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, in connection with an email porn scandal and other allegations of misconduct.
The court opinion cited a “compelling and immediate need” to protect the integrity of the judicial system and the administration of justice. Four justices voted in favor of the suspension, one dissented, and two others, including McCaffery, recused themselves from consideration of the case.
“No other justice has failed to live up to the high ethical demands required of a justice of this court or has been the constant focus of ethical lapses to the degree of Justice McCaffery,” Chief Justice Ronald Castille wrote in a scathing concurring opinion.
He suggested that McCaffery’s attempts to blame others for his behavior bordered on “sociopathic.”
McCaffery could not immediately be reached for comment following the decision, but he has previously apologized for sending the sexually-explicit emails.
The suspension, with pay, will last until the state Judicial Conduct Board decides whether to bring formal charges against McCaffery under an expedited review process expected to take 30 days. He was elected as a Democrat to the Supreme Court in 2007.
Possible further disciplinary action could include removal from the bench and loss of his license to practice law.
The main issue cited by the court in its decision was that McCaffery exchanged “hundreds” of pornographic emails with lawyers in the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office during the years that Tom Corbett, now the governor, was attorney general.
Corbett himself has not been linked to the porn emails and in recent weeks has forced several former lawyers from the attorney general’s office who were implicated in the scandal to resign their current state jobs.
The porn emails, which the court called “highly disturbing,” came to light during an investigation by the current attorney general, Kathleen Kane, into how Corbett handled the child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach of Pennsylvania State University.
Also mentioned in the court’s opinion was an allegation, first reported last year by the Philadelphia Inquirer, that McCaffery authorized hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral payments by personal injury law firms to his wife and chief aide, Lise Rapaport, for sending them clients.
The court also cited an alleged action by McCaffery to have the Philadelphia Traffic Court fix a ticket his wife received, as well as allegedly improper attempts by the justice to influence assignment of judges in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
McCaffery denies any wrongdoing in both these cases.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry)